River wants to pick up the pace

Published 11:30 pm Friday, November 18, 2011

Nansemond River’s girls basketball team enters this season off its best-ever season in the Southeastern District, as runner-up in the season and district tournament, and its first trip to the quarterfinals of the Eastern Region Tournament.

The Lady Warriors, under head coach Calvin Mason, Sr., were already known for their athleticism and non-stop defensive pressure and those traits were big strengths last season.

“We’re going to run and press more this year, so conditioning is something we’ve really been working on,” Mason said.

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“We’re mostly guards so we’ll be a fast team,” said Ashante Humphries, a junior already with two seasons starting at point guard under her belt.

“We’re a quicker team,” said senior guard/forward Jenel Cannon.

“That’s mostly what we work on in practice,” Humphries said.

Mason has four starters returning. Last season’s new territory, as the Lady Warriors finished 19-7 overall, leads into this team in some ways. At the same time, Mason knows his team can’t be complacent.

“It’s motivating us to get better,” Humphries said, “to practice harder and push each other.”

“Obviously last year was a big step for our program,” Mason said. “When you do things you haven’t been able to do before, every time there’s a positive step, it shows how our program is improving.”

“This group has probably worked harder and there’s been less complaining, I’ve been impressed with how hard they’ve worked. I’m very pleased with that aspect of the team,” Mason said.

Humphries and Cannon are joined by Denell Fox and Sonnae Gibson as the returning Lady Warrior starters.

“Denell did a great job toward the end of last season,” Mason said. This will be Fox’s first full season with the Lady Warriors. “She’s capable of doing really great things,” Mason said.

Gibson, now a junior, worked her way into the starting five during last season.

“She’ll be really important for us as far as rebounding. Last year, she got a lot better and became important to us,” Mason said.

The whole Lady Warrior lineup could’ve been back except all-district center Delisia Sharpe transferred.

“We stress each time someone isn’t there, it’s an opportunity for you to step up,” Mason said.

The first chance at the open center position will go to 6-foot senior Jasmine Arthur says Mason.

“She’s probably our most improved player from last season until now,” Mason said. “Jasmine’s gained confidence and she’s definitely improved.”

“We have to work hard, have confidence and we’ll all have to rebound more,” Cannon said.

The Lady Warriors have six newcomers, some simply new to the varsity level, a couple who are new to the school, and one, German exchange student Mara Daberkow, new to the sport.

“This is her first time playing basketball, but she’s a great athlete and she’s doing very well,” Mason.

Junior guard Heather Davis transferred from Portsmouth Christian to the Lady Warriors. Freshman guard Laura Ortiz moved from Richmond.

Ortiz and Kara Lyles, the leading scorer on last year’s Lady Warrior junior varsity, are freshmen but Mason believes they’ll contribute.

“We have great chemistry,” Mason said. “The girls come in and they work. It’s made my job so much easier.”

“We may not be the biggest team or the fastest team, but we want to outwork people every day and we stress that,” Mason said.

Last year’s record and milestones don’t change anything once this season gets going. There will be one way how the district race is tougher for every squad as only the top six teams will make the Southeastern District Tournament, instead of eight as in previous seasons.